Same-sex marriage became legal within D.C. yesterday after Congress’ designated review period ended.
Since Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 last December, the bill has been in a mandatory period of Congressional review.
During the review period, a group led by Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor at Hope Christian Church in D.C., fought to block the legislation, The Eagle previously reported. The group proposed that the bill should go to a ballot referendum, leaving the question of same-sex marriage up to a popular vote throughout the District.
A referendum on same-sex marriage would have violated the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, a bill that prohibits popular votes on issues having to do with minority civil rights, including questions of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Midterm elections could determine whether political opposition to same-sex marriage within the District has ended, according to Matt Bruno, program director at AU’s GLBTA Resource Center.
“The election of more social conservatives to the Democratic Party could mean more backlash,” Bruno said.
Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Chevy Chase Town Councilmember David Lublin said that loopholes in past legislation have allowed Congress to coerce D.C. to submit to its desires before. Should Congress decide in the coming years to force the repeal of the D.C. Marriage Equality Amendment Act, it could simply withhold funding, he said.
“Congress could condition funding in D.C. for the repeal of the law ... it’s the same method that was used to enforce the drinking age nationwide,” Lublin said.
This initial period of legalization could act to quell fears that same-sex marriage might act to undermine societal values, according to Sara Bendoraitis, director of the GLBTA Resource Center.
“For the folks who truly believe that the world will end, this will be proof to the contrary,” Bendoraitis said. “[GLBT individuals] are just regular folks.”
Some worry that too much focus has been placed on campaigning for the right to marriage.
“It’s a symbolic victory, but it really didn’t do anything,” said Diego Halpern, a freshman in the School of International Service. “Our main goal should be combating homophobia.”
Regardless of the long-term implications of legalization, gay marriage in the District has set off a chain of events in the District and the surrounding counties.
Estimates on marriage-related spending ranged from $45 to $22 million, The Eagle previously reported. Newer estimates anticipate even greater economic benefit to the District due to pending same-sex weddings.
Mark Guenther, executive director of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, told the Northwest Current that about 14,000 same-sex weddings are likely to take place in the District over the next three years, and $52.2 million can be expected to flow into the District from nuptial spending.
The first same-sex weddings are expected to begin next Tuesday because it takes three business days for marriage license to be processed.